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November 10, 2015

Mark Dantonio

East Lansing, Michigan

COACH DANTONIO: Morning, guys. First of all, just a real quick opening statement.

Just got to bounce back, regroup today. We got practice today. Our guys were good on Sunday. Looking forward to seeing them this afternoon.

We'll move forward, so I'll take some questions.

Q. Before the winning, winning took care of itself. Now as we look at how the ratings go, style points matter. Do you take a different approach in terms of when you get a big lead how you'll manage that lead now that the College Football Playoff Committee seems to be affected?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, our first goal always is to win the football game. So after that we're going to play until we're comfortable as best we can. Obviously we've had a lot of close games, as well as last game.

But I really haven't concerned myself with that. I sort of feel like if we win, good things happen. When you lose, negative things tend to happen.

We're going to concentrate on trying to win a football game, not worry about the style points. I don't think we've ever piled it on a football team here. That's not my intention, so...

Q. You're always diplomatic on officials. In addition to not wanting to get in trouble, aren't you also sending a message to your team that they are culpable for what happened, too? They didn't stop the other team, didn't get the first down. It's not all about the officials as some fans would have it.
COACH DANTONIO: No, my perspective, I need to be able to, first of all, control myself. If I can't control myself, how can I ask our football team to control themselves. That's number one.

Number two, you're always talking about life lessons to our football team that go beyond football. I look how I react to that, how our team reacts to that.

You're not going to win all the time. We haven't lost here in a year. Most people have lost in that time period at some point in time. For a year we've avoided that aspect of losing.

Don't like it. Sort of eats at you. You tend to really overanalyze and reanalyze everything you do in a football game relative to that aspect. Why did we lose?

That's one play. There were other opportunities to create seconds used. There were other opportunities we didn't make a play. We all have to take responsibility in this. The people on the field, the people officiating, the coaches, everybody takes responsibility in winning and losing.

There's some things I can control, and I've learned to deal with that, do my best. There's other things I have no control of. I've learned how to deal with that and let somebody else worry about that aspect of it. They've got that aspect to deal with, and that's their problem. That's sort of the way I've approached it.

We got to move on. We've won an awful lot of close football games here. We lost one. We let one get away from us that we should have had, from my perspective.

With that said, Nebraska did the job on their end to win that football game. Now we face a football team that has had, first of all, a very tough schedule. It's gone through a coaching change. They've got weapons, William Likely, No. 4, great punt returner, kick returner, a guy they put over on offense from the corner position. They have a quarterback that runs the ball very effectively. Talented young wideouts. A great defensive end. A defense that's been difficult to play against. They've been in every football game they've been in. They've lost at the end.

We face ourselves with another challenge. So we need to focus on that challenge and recognize that aspect and get ready to play, which we will.

Q. You mentioned not having lost a game in almost a year, how you guys are going to bounce back. Do you do any different things over the last couple days to try to make sure that focus comes back quickly?
COACH DANTONIO: We're going to analyze why we lost that football game. Certainly the two-minute situation entered into it as well as some other plays throughout the game. We're going to address those issues and look in-depth at those issues and try and correct them, or just correct them.

That doesn't mean they won't repeat themselves. But we're going to make sure we do everything we can to evaluate why did we win, why did we lose, let's be on the winning side of things.

Continue to talk to our players about handling their situations, playing well, reasserting themselves as leaders. Life's not always going to go like this. You're going to have some down times. As I told them on Sunday, if they thought that was a bad situation and tough deal, they should have been here in 2011 at the Big Ten championship game. That was a tough one. We went to a banquet the next day.

Got it off our back, played well, beat Georgia in, what, triple overtime. So hopefully these things are life lessons, as I said.

Q. You mentioned earlier how it was almost a year to the day since your team's last loss. You rebounded nicely against Maryland after losing to Ohio State. You come up against Maryland again this year. Anything you take from last year's game that you're going to draw similarly in how you prepare for the game this year coming off a loss?
COACH DANTONIO: Well, I just think it's another opportunity to prove yourself, as I just said. Another opportunity to say, Okay, we got knocked down, we're getting up off the mat, we're playing. That's what we did last year. We had to go and play after a very disappointing game. We had to get back up and play, and that's what we did.

I think there's something to be said for that, when you don't succeed at that, regardless of what you're doing, to be able to go back in that arena and be successful.

Q. When did you know last year going into that game, it was pretty focused, when did you know your team had that? Do you usually know in a given week before the game?
COACH DANTONIO: Really, I've almost quit trying to figure out how a football team gets ready. I've seen guys in the locker room very serious and not play well. I've seen guys almost sort of jovial and play very well.

I don't know. But I understand how we prepare. It's basically how we practice. We had great practices last week. That didn't transition into playing well early in the game. There were some other things that happened in the game, obviously. But, again, credit Nebraska. Credit the environment, everything else that goes along with that.

At the end of the day, how do you know? You don't. Otherwise we wouldn't all be sitting here talking about it. You don't. That's what makes sports so unique. You try and get ready, but you don't know till the game starts.

It's hard to carry that emotion you have going into a game, to carry that forward in a game because the game is such an emotional swing. There's so many emotional swings in a football game. I think that time of pressure, I will say pressure, you got to be able to maintain your composure.

Q. This team still controls its own destiny in the division and conference. Do you think people outside this team are losing sight of that?
COACH DANTONIO: It doesn't really matter what people outside are maintaining. It's what's on the inside to me that matters. That's what I have to control myself.

I come over here as a public responsibility, okay? But my main responsibility is over there with our football team. But I'm over here for your benefit.

Q. With the rush defense, I think maybe the Michigan game was the best performance of the year for your defense. I know matchups are different every week. At this point is this something you're concerned about? Is it disappointing the way the front seven has played against the run this season?
COACH DANTONIO: You know, you see a lot of different runs, variety of runs. In college football today there's a lot of innovative ways to run the football. I think what you have to concern yourself with is consistency. If the ball breaks for 12 yards or if it runs for 60 yards, they don't get anything for the rest of the day, consistently you're playing pretty well.

But I would say we were inconsistent versus the pass on Saturday and inconsistent versus the run, as well. But there's a lot of things that lead into that. It's preparation. Are they doing the same thing you saw them do? Were you prepared for it? Did you make plays?

So I think it's always inclusive. It's coaching, it's playing. Everybody has to raise their level of play to get back to where we were accustomed to being. I think our players are capable of doing that, and I think our coaches are, too.

Q. There is a feeling around here, I got texts Saturday night that the season is over. That's silliness. You don't line up in August just to play in January, do you?
COACH DANTONIO: No. As I said, I guess we're pretty spoiled around here at this point. But that's a good thing. I think that's a good thing, all right?

But we lost one football game. There's a lot to play for. As I told our players on Sunday, in my closet, my wife washed my clothes for me, so I was putting clothes on a hanger and hanging them up, okay? It just so happened I picked up a Rose Bowl shirt, put it on a hanger. We were 13-1 that year. There was a Cotton Bowl shirt. We were 11-2. Ended up No. 5 in the nation, ended up No. 3 in the nation.

When you get to that point, sometimes it's not enough anymore. It's not good enough for us. You have to reach higher. You are always trying to go somewhere you haven't been. That's what we're trying to do. That's what this program should try and do.

But let's not be naïve either. Other people out there have good programs, well-established programs, players on scholarship, good coaches. They have drive, too. They're playing for something, as well.

I've watched Nebraska from afar. They've lost some tough games. So they won one. They should be congratulated for that. Under no circumstances are we washed up, out of town. We've got a lot to play for here.

I don't know what we'll be ranked or anything like that. But right now we're No. 2 in the conference with an opportunity to play our way to No. 1. That's all I can tell you.

Q. You have Madaris over on defense in the depth chart. Montae is back as a co-starter. Are you tinkering, trying to find solutions on the back end?
COACH DANTONIO: We've used Monty there before. Don't get him confused with Montae, like Coach Snydes does sometimes.

I think he's got skills. He's got ball skills, he runs, plays in all our special teams. He's played corner in the past. I thought he did some good things on Saturday.

You just have to advance his growth as we move forward. You just have to continue to try to advance his knowledge. He brings a different perception to our secondary because he understands a little bit more about wide receiver play, and he can sort of take that and use that as a defensive back in terms of splits, in terms of movements, things of that nature.

He's got great ball skills, eye-hand coordination and he can run. We're going to continue to work that. We'll see how he does this week relative to that.

Q. If Hicks practiced some this week, does he have to pass a concussion test to practice at all? Where is he with that?
COACH DANTONIO: He's passed the concussion test. He practiced a little bit last week. But I felt like, you know, he hadn't played football in a month. I just didn't know if he was ready. So rather than put him in in a situation like that, we held that opportunity.

Now, that's up to him. He's got to come out and perform. But he's got to be able to do the things that allow him to regain that position, i.e., got to see him tackle, got to see him play the ball in the deep part of the field, got to see him be active, explosive, because he's been sitting for a month almost, three and a half weeks.

Q. Him not being on the depth chart...
COACH DANTONIO: He's on the depth chart, I thought. He's not? John always gives me the depth chart. He's in there.

Q. More likely he'll play?
COACH DANTONIO: It's my fault, guys. Again, I said it was for your benefit.

He's in the hunt to play. Depends on how he practices this week. It's up to how he's performing. That would be the situation.

Q. Off topic here. I don't know if you saw what went on in Missouri the last few days, the effect the players had on changing things there. Comment on the influence that athletes, especially football players, have today.
COACH DANTONIO: Well, it speaks to the power of football. There's no question about that. We're in a different time in society with social media, all the different things. It's just a different time.

So I think people have power, power of the media, different things. I'm not sure really all the ramifications there. I don't have a lot of knowledge of all the things.

But obviously a statement was made.

Q. Didn't know if you had a chance to text Jeremy Langford after last night. Going into his junior year off scholarship to where he is, his progress.
COACH DANTONIO: Yeah, I heard the end result when I came in today from John. Obviously tremendous performance by him. Very, very happy for him. Was really happy for him to be able to walk out midfield a couple games ago in the Indiana game and be our honorary captain, receive that recognition.

Everything I hear about Jeremy from the scouts and the different people I've talked to from the Bears are saying he's done a phenomenal job, not just in running the football and catching it, but showing up on special teams, work ethic, all the different things.

I'm glad that we were a part of that. He's done it himself. He changed it around. He really did. As I told our players, after the Rose Bowl, there's a guy that ran the ball six times when he was a sophomore. Then he has two seasons with us and scores 40 touchdowns. It can happen. He was in our program for three years. Now he's in the NFL succeeding on a big stage, an even bigger stage.

It can happen for all of us. But it's timing, it's work ethic, belief in yourself, confidence, those type of things.

Q. Obviously Le'Veon is out for the year after his injury. Those two guys on the biggest stage, when you have key players at key positions like that that are in commercials, Monday Night Football, what does that bring back to the program long-term?
COACH DANTONIO: I think long-term it brings back to the program obviously that we've got good players here. We've been successful at a high level. If you play tailback, for all you people out there, come here to Michigan State, you can be very, very successful. You can go on from here and do great things.

I think that's sort of a proving ground. Edwin Baker was in it. Called back. Not sure if he ended up. Javon Ringer played four years. Our tailbacks, Glenn Winston has been playing on and off.

Our tailbacks really have been very successful beyond Michigan State. It's one of the reasons we've won here, first of all. It's another reason that I think our recruiting goes well at that position.

Q. Can you talk about Craig Evans and Drake Martinez. What is ahead for those two?
COACH DANTONIO: Drake has been battling an injury. Finally got healthy enough to practice. We carried him to the Nebraska game. We played him one kickoff because I thought it was important to get him started, jump-start him. But he's missed a lot of time. He's missed about two months almost of practice.

From a knowledge standpoint, we got to get him back involved at least on special teams, things of that nature. We'll have to see how this week goes.

Craig Evans played a lot, played well. Joel Heath went down 20 plays or so. Craig played a lot of football and played his best football. He was a guy that stood out. I'm not going to use the word 'dominant,' but stood out and was impressive.

Q. With Aaron Burbridge, is this year more about opportunity that's there for him? What sort of things is he doing different this year?
COACH DANTONIO: I think Aaron Burbridge has always been an outstanding football player. He's healthy. He's always been a guy that as a freshman he became a go-to guy in 2012 if you remember some of those games. He's battled some injuries.

We've had some other good players, evidenced by those guys playing in the league right now, whether it is Bennie Fowler, Tony Lippett, Keith Mumphery. Now he's basically a number one type receiver. Got great confidence, great ball skills. He's extremely quick. He's got good long speed. He's performing at a very high level.

When I sit around and talk to our football team, our coaches, I say, If we're going to have a great year, which by the way, we are having a great year, okay, you got to have your best year as a senior. Aaron Burbridge, there's no question he's having his best year as a football player at Michigan State, it's his senior year. That allows us to move forward.

Thank you.

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